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Friday, 03 January 2014 12:43

Best of 2013: Top 10 albums (punk, pop and indie-rock debut edition)

Best of 2013: Top 10 albums (punk, pop and indie-rock debut edition)
Written by Brian Benton

2013 was a year of great comebacks, returns and follow-ups. Daft Punk. My Bloody Valentine. Boards of Canada. But it was also a year of new artists, and as I was compiling my list of my favorite albums of the year, I realized more than half of them were debuts.

I dug a bit better and compiled this rundown of the 10 best debut releases of the year. I expect most of these artists will also make appearances on many best album lists in years to come.

Haim - Days Are Gone (Columbia/Polydor)

Haim makes a heavily 1970s sound seem fresh and new, with bare, light and somehow still complex melodies. "The Wire" is powerful and electric and sounds like a lost radio hit, and "Don't Save Me is dreamy and nostalgic. The three sisters get compared incessantly to Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell and the like, but distorted beats and bits of R&B make the soft, folk-rock sound all their own.

Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe (Glassnote)

Nearly every song on "The Bones of What You Believe" is sharp and bright and the entire album possesses a crispness and precision that is rare for debuts. The synth-heavy album sounds as catchy as any of the year's best pop releases, and Lauren Mayberry's vocals are impassioned and emotive, with a great adolescent glow.

Disclosure - Settle (PMR)

Guy and Howard Lawrence, 21 and 18, respectively, are too young to remember disco at its peak, but their debut masters the old-school club sound. There's effective usage of guest vocalists (half of the songs have one) and the variation of dance, house and pop beats flows like a great party mix tape.

Earl Sweatshirt - Doris (Columbia)

Hardly a new name or face, the Odd Future oddball's debut studio album is perhaps better than anything he's done with the collective. His sleepy rhymes are personal and rich with stories and despair, with occasional bursts of fury. Earl relies on sharp words, and confessional poetics, rather than complex or schizophrenic beats, to make his debut album stick with you.

Parquet Courts - Light up Gold (What's Your Rupture?)

The fast, brief punk songs that Parquet Courts put on their full-length debut are surprisingly authentic, mostly about snacking, smoking and just getting by. The boys from Brooklyn, N.Y. give off a slacker vibe, with lines about choosing between peanuts or Swedish Fish, but "Light Up Gold" sounds as compete and put-together as any of the year's best punk releases.

Rhye - Woman (Republic)

Canadian/Danish duo Rhye's music sounds like it's being whispered in your ear, with gentle, soul grooves and subtle rhythms. There is a lot to the album -- exploration of gender roles as Michael Milosh takes on a feminine voice for many of the songs, for example -- but what really makes "Woman" memorable is the lush production, and breathtakingly delicate sound.

Bastille - Bad Blood (EMI/Virgin)

"Bad Blood" is full of arena-ready anthems, perhaps because at home in London, that's the size venues Bastille plays. The albums seems like it was made to be enjoyable, with upbeat, youthful, songs that refuse to accept failure as an option. Even the songs that sound like the others are okay, because the sound they're echoing is so darn catchy and pleasing.

Lorde - Pure Heroine (Lava/Republic)

I didn't want to mention that Lorde is only 16, but it seems wrong to write something about her without including that impressive fact. Her words, sometimes presented with a sweet coo and others a deep, low growl, seem years beyond her age. Songs like "400 Lux" and the incredibly promising "Ribs" are cleverly written and sometimes uncomfortable to hear, in a good way of course.

Daughter - If You Leave (4AD)

Each of the 10 songs on "If You Leave" has a one-word title that perfectly suggests how Elena Tonra's folky, hypnotic vocals will make you feel. "Youth" enchantingly captures the feeling of being alone when trying to find oneself with gushing moments of passion, and "Shallows" is ghostly and airy. The entire album, including the song titles, seems simple, but that minimalism is what makes it effective and haunting.

Flume - Flume (Mom & Pop/Future Classic)

Flume's beats are feather-light and sometimes unusual or off-kilter, and even when paired with silky female vocals or aggressive hip-hop rhymes, as they often are, remain the strongest part of the album. It is hard for a producer to make an album that stands on its own, but Flume manages to do it through a series of good rhythms and melodies.

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